Monday, September 30, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 30.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
  • Things are tense in Cataluña, it says here.
Spanish Life  
  • A British adventurer bound for America has set sail from Tunisia in a replica Phoenician vessel, attempting to prove the ancient seafaring nation could have reached America 2,000 years before Christopher Columbus (Cristobál Colón). That won't do much good for the business based on the belief that Colón was born here in Poio. Essentially the museum dedicated to him, and providing poof of this belief.´
  • In more modern times, there's reasons to be impressed by Spanish medical research.
Galicia Life
  • Headline re our region: Every day 3 shops close and 4 bars open
  • A second headline: Endogamy. on the campuses: More than half of the teaching staff work in he university where they did their thesis. I recall being told this 19 years ago and having ask what 'endogamy' was in this context.
Pontevedra Life
  • Having been surprised to see a dolphin in the river Lérez a few weeks ago, I was a bit blasé about catching sight of a cormorant in it last night. Despite the presence of many large fish in the river, the diving bird didn't seem to be having much luck. Murky waters?
  • Historian Niall Ferguson: The key to Trump’s power is not the untrue things he says. It is the outrageous things he openly does — and gets away with. Thus far.
  • Ferguson is not convinced that impeachment will bring Ffart down.
  • My thanks to Belinda Beckett for the article below on modern expressions she hates. I imagine she's not alone.
  • I'm driving to Santander today - in miserable weather - to catch an evening boat to Plymouth. I will write a post on the latter but whether the at-sea wifi will allow me to publish it is another matter.
  • Meanwhile, I fear I will run foul of fog on the sky-high viaduct above Mondoñedo, a foreseeable problem on which millions are now being spent to counteract it. And to reduce the accidents. I will advise on the efficacy of the lasers, lit up barriers, etc. in due course.

Belinda Beckett reveals the jargon which makes her stomach turn

This month I’m ‘opening the kimono’ about my pet hate – people whose ‘narrative’ is peppered with buzzwords.

It may be state of the art and all that jazz but I am not loving the aesthetic and the bottom line is, I am no longer singing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of modern society.

Call me carbon-dated but I’ll never be able to get on the front foot with all the fancy phrases trotted off the tongues of today’s ‘influencers’.

They call it ‘disruptive’, I call it gobbledygook.

I have zero synergy with ‘blue sky’ and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking.

Spoken English has got to the stage where I no longer know where anyone’s ‘coming from’. Lapland or Botswana perhaps – it’s all Greek to me.

Do you hear what I’m saying? Of course not, this isn’t a podcast!

Taking a holistic approach, I blame everyone – the Americans, marketing geeks, SMOCs (Social Media Obsessive Compulsives, pronounced ‘schmucks’).

Having no monarch themselves, our friends across the Pond were never content to stick to ‘Queen’s English’, inventing ugly substitutes like bangs and fanny pack for hair fringe and bum bag.

And now, the effrontery of it, Donald Trump – the president with the vocabulary range of an embryo – has been allowed to add officially to the lexicon. ‘Fake news’, describing stories that say ‘very bad things’ about Donald Trump (IMHO) is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Some blame for the most irritating phrases in the English language date back to Ricky Gervais’ David Brent character in Noughties sitcom, The Office, which would now be called The Workplace.

‘The bard of Slough’, was a maestro of the mixed metaphor, expecting his staff to ‘run a few ideas up the flagpole’ while simultaneously ‘bedding them down’ in order to ‘fast-track a solution’ – and all before ‘doing lunch’. Shall I run that by you again?

Had Shakespeare himself been around today, he would be having a Twelfth Nightmare trying to fit sayings like ‘the feel-good-factor’ into a rhyming couplet.

They say that half the world’s 6,700 languages will be extinct by the end of this century while Americanised English is putting paid to dialects which would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions or, in the modern vernacular, a right bummer.

But even in the best-case scenario, if I’m honest, the optics aren’t good and without an exit strategy it could be a no-win situation.

All I ask is that next time you need to shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or get your ducks in a row, just keep it to yourself.

Other phrases that don’t float my boat …

Reach Out – Please don’t. An email’s quite sufficient. We Brits don’t do touchy-feely with strangers
Giving 110% – No one can give more than 100% of themselves unless they have a clone
It is what it is – Thanks! (Idiot)
I hear what you’re saying – I’m just not listening
Going forward – Can’t, my nose would hit the computer screen
It’s not rocket science – How do you know?
Pushing the envelope – I prefer a knife opener
The fact of the matter is – I’m just a long-winded, pompous twit
Let’s touch base – How very dare you!
He’s such a woke dude – He’s socially aware, even when asleep

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: .29.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Life  
  • Dear dog!. . .  According to there were a staggering 60 gang rapes in Spain last year compared to 14 in 2017, and 18 in 2016 when the infamous Pamplona San Fermines ‘manada’ – or wolf pack – took place with five Spanish men taking turns to rape an 18-year-old. This year, there have been 42 reported cases taking place between January and August 2. More here.
Galicia Life
  • Some camino pilgrims proceed from Santiago to the beach of Finisterra, to burn their clothes and gaze at the sunset. Perhaps even to swim. This is not without risk, as this article shows. 
Pontevedra Life
  • They've now put arrows on that crossing, taking pilgrims back to the main route. Unfortunately, cars drove across the wet paint, making it look as if the direction is both ahead and to the right . . . 

The UK
  • Dear dog! . . . Richard North: Johnson has made it clear that he wants to "get Brexit done" and then focus on his domestic agenda. But the proposition that we can get Brexit "done" is absurd. As a process rather than an event, Brexit will be with us for the next 20 years as an active issue, and for the next decade – at the very least – it will be a dominant theme in politics, whether we leave or not.
  • I'm sure I've mentioned this before but, in the north of England, 31October is Duck Apple Night. As kids, we enjoyed - or were subjected to - both of the apple tests referred to here. Given that these games go back to the Celts and the Romans, it's not very surprising that they also take place here, doing Samhaín/Samaín. Or used to before bloody Trick & Treat took over. See here and and here.
  • A reference in a local paper to the Batalla de St Cruz in 1657 caught my eye. Especially the headline that this had been a victory for the forces of Philip IV. I rather doubted this and so I checked. The English and Spanish Wiki entries share the following information:-
- Ships destroyed: All 15 of the Spanish ships, 1 English ship.
- Number of people killed: Spanish 300, English 50 (except in the Spanish summary box, where this is 5,000)
- Outcome: English Wiki: Victory for the English: Spanish Wiki: 'Disputed'. Hard to credit but it is true that the English failed to get their hands on the Spanish bullion, which had been the objective of the attack on Santa Cruz.

Pick the meat out of that . . .

Personal note
  • I'm driving to Santander for the UK ferry tomorrow, having had a painful tooth out on Friday evening. Not a good time to discover that vibrations created in a car are not good for a recovering hole in your gum.  . . 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Life
  • Info for Brits on post-Brexit healthcare.
  • I cited the Spanish word for pranks/practical jokes recently - novatada - but it also (primarily?) means the sort of initiation ceremonies that take place in universities around the country. Here's something on these. BTW . . . I'm guessing that 'hazing' is American English for this.
Galicia Life
  • A judge has been suspended for handling her cases too slowly. Given the usual pace of justice here, this begs a few nice questions.
  • More from the happy Aussie camper in Galicia. Interestingly, I've been writing about Galicia for 19 years and no one has interviewed me yet. Thought-provoking.
Pontevedra Life
  • Our mayor has announced that his next campaign will be against the 'ugliness' of some buildings and walls in the city. As a foreign couple commented to me last night, he should also give some thought to eradicating the blight of graffiti, in at least the old quarter.
  • As I sat in pavement café yesterday morning, a chap went past on a bike at a sedate 10kph. To be followed by a (smiling) woman on an e-scooter doing at least 20kph. Both of them were moving faster than the cars on the road. At a much greater risk to pedestrians, of course.
The UK/The EU/Brexit
  • It's been suggested that the UK will finally give its 'legally-workable proposals' for a Brexit deal by Thursday of next week, 5 October. Whether this leaves enough time for 11th hour negotiations before the EU Summit on 17 October is rather doubtful. To say the least. But miracles do happen in Brussels from time to time.
  • There's any number of Youtube videos on Ffart's latest travails. Here's Jimmy Kimmel with one of the more amusing ones. As he says: Trumps thinks we're idiots. And we are idiots. We elected an idiot as president.
  • I've added a few adjectives to my list of those I've seen applied to Ffart. In bold here:-
Arrogant, Autocratic, Alienating, Anti-intellectual, Angry, Abuser of women
Bullying, Boastful, Braggart, Belligerent, Bigoted, Blowhard, Bad-tempered
Chaos-creating, Clueless, Cheating, Combative, Child-like, Childish
Disruptive, Dishonest, Deluded, Divisive, Destructive, Disorganised, Devious, Disgusting, Despicable, Dangerous.
Exaggerator, Egotistical, Egocentric
Fox News-Obsessed, Follicly challenged, Fraudulent, Fantasist, Fast-food-Guzzler
Garrulous, Global-warming-denying, Gaffe-prone
Hyperbolic, Hateful, Heartless, Humourless, Hollow
Idiotic, Insulting, Insensitive, Irreligious, Incompetent, Inconsistent, Ignorant, Islamophobic, Inattentive, Insecure, Inimical, Incoherent, Illogical, Irrational, Intemperate, Inept, Impatient, Intimidatory, Insane?
Kinglike, Kinky, Know-all
Liar, Lazy, Low esteemed,
Misogynistic, Media-obsessed, Menacing, Mad?
Nauseating, Narcissist, (White) Nationalist
Obsessive, Orange-hued, Obnoxious
Paranoid, Putin-admiring, Petty, Pussy-grabbing, Populist, Posturing, Pugnacious, Poseur, Philandering, Phony, Politically inexperienced, Psychologically suspect.
Quixotic, Querulous
Russia-dependent, Rabble-rousing, Reckless, Racist, Resentful, Repulsive, Rapist
Short-attention-spanned, Self-centred, Self-obsessed, Stupid, Self-vaunting, Susceptible to flattery, Swaggering, Small-minded, Self-interested, Sleazy, Scumbag.
Twitter-obsessed, TV-obsessed, Tyrannical, Trade-disrupting, Threatening, Triumphalist, Thin-skinned, Temperamentally unsuited for the job
Unfriendly, Unfaithful, Unintelligible, Unreliable, Unwilling to listen, Unaware, Untrustworthy, Unpredictable, Undisciplined, Un-self-aware,
Vocabulary-deficient, Vengeful, Victim, Vain. Vulgar, Vindictive
Wearisome, Weird, Whoring, Worrying, Wrathful, Wrong-headed, War-mongering
Yankee . . .

I wonder if the world has ever seen anyone else displaying this appalling  compendium of characteristics. Oh, and how his wife can stay married to him.
The Way of the World
  • As an ex-Catholic, I'm very aware of just how much the Church obsesses with death, most obviously of JC but also of its numerous garishly-despatched martyrs. So, I found it a tad ironic to read that the Vatican had accused Italy - after its constitutional court ruled that it was not always a crime to help someone facing intolerable suffering to die - of “spreading a culture of death”
Social Media 
  • See the article below on the woman who doesn't want to be registered as the mother of the child born to her.
  • How about these coincidences around a family funeral I'm attending in the UK next week . . .
  1. My local good friend Fran(cisco) will be in the UK on the day of the funeral, 4 October.
  2. The funeral lunch will be in a Wirral village called Frankby, which means 'Frank's farm' in old Norse.
  3. Fran will be passing Wirral en route from Ruthin to Liverpool on the 4 October and will detour a little to take a look at Frankby.
  4. October 4 is the feast day of St Francis/San Francisco . . .
Frankly, amazing . . .


No transgender parent should be able to airbrush their child's history: Judith Woods, Daily Telegraph

Calling all Archers fans! Have you heard about the latest au courant plot twist in this everyday tale of farming folk?

New parents Adam and Ian are only going to court to have their surrogate Lexie’s name taken off the birth certificate so that Ian can be legally registered as the mother. Well, he is taking a year off work, you know. What do you mean you don’t believe it? Might that be because even for a long-running radio soap that pioneered all things organic (Pat and Tony on the farm) and orgasmic (Sid and Jolene in the shower), this is just too stupid?

And you’d be right. Sometimes, life is far too ludicrous for art to even think of imitating.

That’s why I pity the High Court judge who had to sit with a straight face as they heard Freddy McConnell, a transgender man, argue that, despite giving birth to a baby, this incontrovertible biological truth should be struck from the record.

Freddy, 32, clearly feels he is some sort of social justice warrior. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

A quick recap for those I’ve lost at the back: Freddy was born a girl (am I allowed to say that?) but suffered from gender dysphoria. Which is a shame.

Some years ago, he transitioned into a man. Gosh, that can’t have been easy. But he decided to retain his womb so that he could still give birth.

Seriously? There’s not a man alive who would want to go through that. My husband had to nip off for a balti and have a quick nap just to cope with watching me.

So far, so modern. Which is to say that it sounds really weird, but it’s 2019 and we’re not allowed to question other people’s bizarre having-it-all life choices for fear of being set upon by a baying Twitter mob.

Freddy conceived a baby via IVF – he’s a journalist with The Guardian, and generously invited in a TV crew to film his journey, water birth and all – and is bringing up his little boy as a single parent. He also has a fine moustache and looks every inch the proud father.

What a happy ending. But that’s not enough.

He’s unhappy that he’s named as the mother on his child’s birth certificate, because – despite having deliberately kept his womb so he could be a mother, and being filmed in labour – he’s not a woman any more.

And, apparently, that’s deeply painful. Not as much as childbirth, obviously, but these days hurt feelings count for much, much more.

Now, I no idea why Freddy wants to redact his past so badly. Lord knows there are any number of events in my life I’d prefer not to remember (my ill-fated radio career, for a start), but just insisting they never happened doesn’t make it so.

Demanding the courts alter his child’s birth certificate and effectively leave a little boy without a biological mother in order to assist the rewriting of his own personal history was always a frivolous waste of time.

I know “frivolous” is a legal term, but as a layperson I can’t help thinking it implies that proceedings adding to the gaiety of the nation, instead of dragging us all under the wheels of a gender juggernaut that is grinding both common sense and common decency beneath its wheels.

I’m under no illusions: Freddy seems to have an insatiable appetite for publicity, and I’ll wager this brouhaha is a lot more about po-faced activism than personal angst.

He finds the court’s judgment distressing, as he would prefer to forget he was ever a mother (maybe inviting the film crew was a bit of an own goal?). But he was a mother. He chose to be. So why the hell doesn’t he just accept that we can’t always have what we want, and enjoy what he has got? If a couple gets a divorce, they might prefer not to mention it ever again – but it doesn’t mean they were never married.

I struggle to understand Freddy’s revisionism or his need for attention; they are his demons to battle. He can knock himself out, as far as I’m concerned. But he has no right – legal or moral – to deny the facts of his son’s birth because that is not his history to alter. I feel shocked and outraged he would even want to do so.

Every mother knows that, in utero, a baby is entirely yours. Once you bring an infant into the world, your responsibilities multiply, but your rights are curtailed – this child is a person in its own right. But then Freddy rejects motherhood with all its selfless joys and burdens.

Instead, his look-at-me attempt to control and manipulate his son’s birth certificate smacks of the most monstrous egotism. It’s what Sigmund Freud described as the “narcissism of small things”; an almost pathological need to be different, to insist on concessions, to demand special treatment.

I’m proud to live in a society where a genuinely troubled individual like Freddy can change gender. I’m even prouder that we have a legal system that point-blank refuses to let him change another person’s truth.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 27.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
  • Oh, dear. The Catalan Parliament has voted on seeking an amnesty and exercising the right to self-determination in response to the upcoming potential guilty verdict for the Catalan leaders behind the 2017 independence referendum. More here
  • Wisely, the Vatican says it won't opposed the removal of Franco's bones to the family crypt in Madrid, notwithstanding the opposition of the local residents. Who fear disruptive 'pilgrimages' from Vox supporters. They could always shoot them . . . 
The Spanish Economy
  • I suppose the PM means here the biggest possible risk. One can think of others bigger but less likely.
Spanish Life
Galicia Life
  • These are said to be our regional government's priorities in negotiating with Madrid on the issue of autonomy:-
1. The demographic crisis
2. Financing
3. Health
4. Galicia's Weight/Influence in Madrid
5. Macho violence
6. Industry
7. The 2021 Jacobean Year
8. Brexit
9. Infrastructure
10. The political framework
Given what the PM is reported above to have said, it's odd to see Brexit so far down the list. Especially given the importance of fishing right to the Galicians.

Pontevedra Life
  • On my way up the hill to my home yesterday, I gave a lift to a gypsy I know from his custom of begging at our gates every Sunday. 'Just drop me at the stow', he said. This turned out to be the Stop sign at the end of the road to the infamous gypsy settlement. I'm not sure but I think he explained that there was no 'final plosive P' in the gypsy language, Caló  For which there might be some support here.
  • I forgot my armbands last night so crossed to O Burgo bridge very carefully indeed. Looking back, it was clear that this is the least bright spot on a busy 4 lane ring road. An invitation to an accident.
The UK
  • British MP's rushed back to the Commons on Wednesday, as there was so much to do before the end of October. They spent the day bawling at each other, which will only have further damaged their already parlous image with the public. Then, yesterday, about 640 of them found something better to do than attend a debate on The Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate, having earlier voted a day off for themselves today. A cabinet minister initiating the debate declared: The opposition were desperate to discuss these things, yet here we are, mid-afternoon on a Thursday, 2 days in, and I can count the number of Labour Members present on the fingers of one hand. YCMIU
The EU
  • Still awaiting 'serious, legally binding' proposals from the British government, with a deadline of the end of next week. Chances can't be high.
  • All you need to know on the Ukraine issue. Though there's an awful lot more in the ether.
  • I'm still posing the question: Is there any limit to Frart's stupidity? Inter alia.
  • See  Ambrose Evans Pritchard on the impeachment issue below. I hope he's not being too optimistic. He usually isn't. On anything.
  • On Tuesday night, I chatted to a young English 'pilgrim' who said she was a chef and the writer on a book of Sri Lanka recipes. On Wednesday, I took at a look at the reviews on Amazon. As usual) these ranged from many of 5 down to several of 1. Anyway, this morning I received an email which I think is in the main Sri Lanka language, Sinhala. Spooky or what?

Like Watergate there is a 'cancer on the presidency' and it looks terminal for Donald Trump: Ambrose Evans Pritchard.

The release of the whistleblower complaint against Donald Trump is not a smoking howitzer but it probably spells the end of the Trump presidency as we know it. 

The coming months will be consumed by impeachment war on Capitol Hill. The Washington press corps will enter a feeding frenzy. Subpoenas will fly. The United States will tear itself apart. 

This has potent implications for financial markets and for the global geopolitical landscape. The poisonous atmosphere on Capitol Hill makes it even less likely that there will be any fiscal stimulus if the US economy slows further and drops to stall speed. It therefore raise recession risk, ceteris paribus.  

The CIA official behind the complaint was not a direct witness to events. He was not in the room when Mr Trump asked Ukraine’s leader to cough up dirt on Joe Biden, the Democrat front-runner for the 2020 elections. He is identified in the text of the CIA inspector general’s report as having a political ‘bias’.

Some Republicans in Congress (though not all) are seizing on these points. Mr Trump’s political base is already calling the affair a plot by the deep state, or score-settling by the CIA. This has created the conditions for a long and bitter fight. But weaknesses in the whistleblower case do not change the fundamental facts.

There will be long grueling hearings on Capitol Hill. Testimony taken under oath will peel away layers of the onion until the truth is out. That is the lesson of Watergate. 

As the inspector general says, the information taken as a whole appears “credible”, points to a “flagrant abuse”, and meets the threshold of an “urgent concern”. The details are frankly devastating. 

During my Washington years I covered both the Iran-Contra hearings against Ronald Reagan and the scandals leading up to Bill Clinton's impeachment. This one feels different. 

It is more like the “cancer on the presidency” under Richard Nixon. My guess is that there will be a drip-drip of revelations as there was after that “third-rate burglary”.  White House aides will squeal as the pressure mounts. A John Dean will appear soon enough. 

“The President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main political rivals,” states the whistleblower. 

The call to the Ukrainian leader occurred days after Mr Trump had issued instructions to “suspend all security assistance to Ukraine”. One might infer that the White House was using $400bn of US aid to put the screws on a vulnerable country.

The unfortunate Volodymyr Zelensky was asked to dish the dirt on Joe Biden and his son, as well as turning over the servers used by the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

The letter alleges that horrified White House lawyers understood the significance of this malfeasance at once and quickly conspired to cover up the call. They ordered officials to “lock down” the transcripts by transferring the records. The Attorney-General was allegedly involved. Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared to be acting as enforcer against Ukraine, running a parallel State Department. 

Adam Schiff, the Democrat chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the transcripts of the telephone call (what we have so far) smack of a mob shakedown. “This is how a mafia boss talks, and it’s clear that the Ukraine president understands exactly what is expected of him”.

When the House impeached Bill Clinton for perjury in the Lewinsky affair (the wrong abuse of power in my view, but never mind), Senators refused to convict. They could sense the national mood. The American people did not want their president toppled for a sexual affair, perjury or no perjury.

The Ukraine affair touches deeper on American democracy. And the Republican leadership does not regard Mr Trump as one of their own. They tolerate him.

It would not surprise me to see them turning on him if - and when - the hearings start to chip away at his poll ratings. I do not think he will succeed in playing the martyr to energise his base. The facts are too awful.

To the extent that the affair also damages Joe Biden - which it does -  it catapults Elizabeth Warren into pole position for the Democratic nomination. This is a quirky turn. 

There is now a higher chance that she will be the next US president. She is ultra-protectionist by conviction, unlike Mr Trump who at least pays lip service to free trade. 

She is proposing an American variant of Corbynism. A follower of French neo-Marxist Thomas Piketty, she wants a wealth tax, free healthcare for all, workers on company boards, and the immediate shutdown of oil and gas fracking. She also wants an active devaluation policy. This means currency war.

On balance, it means China may think it better to try to secure a quick trade deal with Mr Trump, judging that he is now sufficiently weakened to need a 'victory', and that they would face their real nemesis with a President Warren. If so, we could see a paradoxical market rally in the short-term.

In the Nixon and Clinton impeachments there was never any serious likelihood that these two presidents would provoke a ‘wag the dog’ conflict abroad to deflect attention and muddy the waters. We can have no such confidence in Trump. He would not hesitate.

Fortunately, the US military and foreign policy staff would resist such an abuse of American power. But it is an extraordinary and dangerous situation for the world that it has come to this.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
Spanish Life
  • Here's a few more Spanish ads from only 40 years ago, currently doing the rounds in Spain. Some of them extol the health benefits of booze. And one recommends you enjoy a brandy before you drive. Another promotes a heroin drink for kids. Things have certainly changed . . .

Galicia Life
  • I'm confused about our Albariño grape harvest. One report says it'll be a good year; another says that volume is down 20-40%, depending on location. Maybe the former relates to quality. Either way, I expect prices to rise. Especially as there's a growers' cartel, HQ'd in Pontevedra.
Pontevedra Life
  • There was cartoon in a local paper yesterday featuring a plane with Thomas Cú on the side of it. It took me a while to figure out this was Galician for 'Thomas Cook'. By a similar process, I guess, to 'pub' being transmuted into paf.
  • As predicted, the new zebra crossing at the city end of O Burgo bridge is proving dangerous. At 9.45 last night, this happened in (very)quick succession:-
- Car 1 ignored my presence at the start of the crossing.
- Car 2 swerved past me as I walked onto the crossing.
- Car 3 screeched to a halt as I was 2-3 metres onto the crossing.
It doesn't help that the crossing isn't yet lit. And I fear at least one accident before it is. So, not wanting to be the first victim, I've invested in a pair or reflective armbands . . .
  • Two more new panhandlers arrived on the Beggar Train last night. The problem with these is that they don't yet know they're wasting their time with me and should concentrate on the many foreign tourists we have this time of the year, some of whom are gullible.
The Way of the World
  • A British ex-woman who now regards herself as a man has been told that he/she must be entered as the mother of the child he/she conceived and gave birth to on its birth certificate. One commentator has described the verdict as 'a rare victory for common sense'. Maybe. The father/mother is going to lodge an appeal  . . . 
  • How English can you be? I was with a group of friends in Pontevedra's Moroccan restaurant last night when an English couple entered and the man apologised to the owner for being under-dressed, in jeans. Dear god. Spanish folk even even attend funerals dressed in these!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 25.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
  • You may have missed this amidst all the excitement of historical events in the UK and the USA. There was another Supreme Court announcement of great moment yesterday. Now to see the Spanish Far Right at its very worst. Or was that earlier this week in the context of the selection of the Queen of a fiesta down in Andalucia.
The Spanish Economy
Spanish  Life
  • Beware a pyramid scheme targeted at feminists, called Telar. Or Loom. I believe this is a reference to this scam, now in Spain.
  • I see that such things as e-bikes and e-scooters are called VMPs. Vehículos de Mobilidad Personal. Probably ordinary bikes and scooters as well.
Galicia Life
  • If you're going to be driving here, you need to know that - as well as being confused and confusing on roundabouts - Galicians are the worst in Spain for driving while on the phone. Whether this is an absolute verdict or the reflection of police efficiency, I can't say.
Pontevedra  Life
  • I'm hoping our mayor will follow up his comments and install bike paths on all the city's wide pavements. Or, at the very least, on O Burgo bridge. Perhaps there even a lane just for 'pilgrims'.
  • There is a group of folk talking their dogs on the camino; the latter have been termed perregrinos . . .
The UK
  • Richard North today: There's a great deal that's already been said about the Supreme Court judgement, and little to be gained by rehearsing issues already done at great length. As of now, however, it takes us no closer to a Brexit resolution and, if anything, it complicates something which is already fearsomely complicated. In particular, allowing parliament to resume does us no favours. This is an institution which is part of the problem. It has rejected the only deal that could be acceptable to the EU, it has sought to block a no-deal scenario (and may have succeeded in so doing), and is pushing Johnson to secure yet another Article 50 extension which ostensibly serves no other purpose but to delay Brexit those few months more. More here.
  • One of the numerous commentators: A word on the powers of the Supreme Court. Yesterday’s ruling will prove a landmark in our constitutional history. To see it as merely legally unremarkable is naive. Politically it was very remarkable indeed. Of course there were ancient legal precedents and a well-marked path to the ruling. The judgment set these out at length. Yet the case marked a development in the powers of the court. After all, the High Court thought this power did not exist and now it does.
The EU
  • So, the impeachment process has finally begun. The odds against it succeeding must still be high, whatever Ffart is guilty of to date and whatever he does in the future. Or 'going forward', as it's now compulsory to put it.
Nutters Corner
  • Right-wing Pastor Robert Jeffress on Fox News: Referring to Ffart's speech to the UN: It was an absolutely tremendous speech about religious freedom. The only thing more fun than listening to him is listening to the liberals whine that he had the audacity to skip the climate summit. I tell people all the time ‘This president is brilliant.’ He decides to skip attending a session on an imaginary crisis — climate change — and instead he chooses to lead his own conference on a very real problem, global persecution. God said he created the environment to serve us, not for us to serve the environment. This Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old, she was warning today about the mass extinction of humanity. Somebody needs to read poor Greta Genesis chapter 9 and tell her the next time she worries about global warming, just look at a rainbow; that’s God’s promise that the polar ice caps aren’t going to melt and flood the world again. If I wasn't already an atheist . . . 
  • Word of the Day: Jaunetes. Bunions.
  • I see:-
  1. There's a shop in Vilargarcia - a hot bed of narcotráficos - called Floristería Colín. I wonder if it's a money-laundering front.
  2. The colin de California is a quail.
  • BTW . . . My neighbour, Toni, refuses to believe I'm an atheist and takes the RC church's view that, having been baptised a Catholic, I still am a Catholic . . . But we did establish that, despite his still being a Catholic, he hasn't been to Mass for years. So, a 'cultural Catholic' at best.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 24.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
The Spanish Economy
  • More on that macro/micro divide I talk about. Not that it's unique to Spain, of course, but it needs to be remembered when we're told how Spain is doing better than almost any other EU country.
Spanish Life
Galicia Life
  • Our regional papers are currently full of stories of local drug busts. Tip of the iceberg, I fear.
  • Oh, and they yesterday majored on prostitution, with one victim of deceit declaring: Galicia has always been the main point of entry for drugs and prostitution. Not a good image to have.
  • Being more positive . . .  There are said to be 30 restaurants in the region signed up to the Too Good to Go app. Which might well be a good thing.
Pontevedra  Life
  • Our fine city was said in the above article to be the 'centre of prostitution in the tourism and industry sectors'. Though everything looks wonderful on the surface of this largely car-free place.
  • Which reminds me . . .  Our anti-car mayor has averred - in the context of his new 10kph speed limit - that citizens here have more to fear from cyclists, skaters and scooterists than from the (few) cars that still struggle to get round it. I'll say.
  • I drive down to town through a zone called The Marshes of Alba. And I park my car near a lane which sees a lot of truck traffic to some facility at the end of it. For the last 2 days, there's been a woman standing next to a lay-by. The first morning I thought she might be waiting for a lift but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps it really is a lay-by.
The UK
  •  The apparent (non) choice . . .

  • The self-awareness of Ffart . . . What Biden did [totally unbstatiated] is a disgrace. What his son did [ditto] is a disgrace. The real wonder is that Ffart might actually believe that what he's saying is valid and just. Dunning-Kruger.
  • Word of the Day: Proxeneta: Pimp. From the Greek word apparently. I thought that, with the X, it might have come into Spanish from Gallego.
  • To lighten the mood,  here's just one of several Spanish ads from the 1970s. More tomorrow. This one advertises beer as being good for kids:-

Monday, September 23, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain:23.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
  • The latest poll results ahead of [weary sigh] November's general election. The PSOE would gain votes. But enough to form a government??
The Spanish Economy
Spanish  Life
  • I'm not sure I'm convinced by this article on a particular brand of jamón . . .
  • Potentially very bad news if you can't get Spanish or another EU nationality ahead of or after a hard Brexit.
  • I read that there are 500 pickpockets working the Madrid metro. I've no idea if this is true or not but I am sure that some of these are young foreigners who can do this with impunity under Spanish law.
  • Here's how some folk in Barcelona are trying to deal with its petty crime problem. Though not everyone is happy about the development. Apart from the crooks, I mean.
Pontevedra  Life
  • Here are fotos of the zebra crossing I mentioned yesterday. Not good for short-sighted drivers. Or their victims:-

  • And here are the new railings of the 'modernised' O Burgo bridge, hugely disliked by at least me and reader Perry:-

  • Easy parking on the semi-rural northern edge of the city:-

  • An unusual morning. No Ffart stupidity to report. Perhaps he was playing golf all weekend. Or I've missed something and will catch up tonight.
  • Words of the Day, for those with troublesome kids:-
  1. Pataleta: Tantrum
  2. Colapso emocional: Meltdown.
  • Since I wrote that, my daughter has told me that berrinche ('tantrum'; 'hissy fit') and rabieta ('tantrum'; 'hissy fit', 'temper') are more common in Madrid.
  • The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. The winners are:-
  1. Coffee (N.), the person upon whom one coughs.
  2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
  3. Abdicate (V.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  4. Esplanade (V.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
  5. Willy-nilly (Adj.), impotent.
  6. Negligent (Adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
  7. Lymph (V.), to walk with a lisp.
  8. Gargoyle (N.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
  9. Flatulence (N.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller
  10. Balderdash (N.), a rapidly receding hairline.
  11. Testicle (N.), a humorous question on an exam.
  12. Rectitude (N.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
  13. Pokemon (N), a Rastafarian proctologist.
  14. Oyster (N.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
  15. Frisbeetarianism (N.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there. 
  16. Circumvent (N.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
  • Checking on how mint grows, I discovered that the fashionable chia seeds come from a plant of the same family known as Salvia Hispanica, or Spanish Sage. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 22.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain
  • Some good news to start today. Though it's certainly not accurate where I am at the moment.
  • Iconoclastic vandalism?
  • Here's The Local with what its readers say are the best apps for improving your life here. The one for splitting bills might well be the best of these . . . 
  • And why autumn/fall is the best season in Spain. I favour no. 6.
  • An unhappy statistic - One sphere in which Spain leads the rest of Europe is in the number of 14-21 year olds hooked on sports gambling and online poker.
  • Sephardic Jews have a right to citizenship in Spain but applications have been far fewer than expected. It's reported here that a 'prosaic' reason is that there's: A yawning gap between the spirit of the Spanish citizenship law and its bureaucratic and civil administration. The application process is daunting and difficult. No one who lives here can be at all surprised at this.
Life in Pontevedra
  • The latest city ordinance is that all vehicles - from scooters to cars - will be limited to 10kph. Or 6mph. I'm certain this will be applied to car drivers but whether the police will do anything about maniacs on scooters, bikes, e-scooters and e-bikes I'm not at all sure of. Vamos a ver.
  • Although the work on O Burgos bridge is yet to be finished, they've acceded to demand and opened a passageway through the middle of it. I'm guessing this purely a coincidence only a couple of days after my setting a bad example by ignoring the barriers at each end.
  • At the city end of the bridge, a zebra crossing which was a few metres away has been moved to right at the end of the bridge. Being the same dimensions as the latter, this could well be the widest zebra crossing in the world. And so more risky than average for pedestrians.
  • A couple quotes noted years ago and just found in my files:-
  1. Comedy is the last refuge of the nonconformist mind:  Gilbert Seldes. 1893-1970
  2. Those to whom nature has denied an aptitude for the enjoyments of taste are long-faced, long-nosed  and long-eyed. Whatever their stature, they have something lanky about them. They have dark, lanky hair, and are never in good condition. It was one of them who invented trousers:- Jean-Anthelme Brillar-Savarin 1755-1826.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 21.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
Life in Spain
  • Moving to Spain can be good for you in many ways, it says here. Though not if you're looking for good career growth. I have to admit I'm astonished that 52% of expats say the health service couldn't be better. To me, it seems to suffer from some of the same problems as the UK's NHS. For instance, long delays in getting GP appointments, leading to patients using Urgencias as a substitute, resulting in waiting times there of at least 5 hours. Maybe only in Galicia. Or just Pontevedra.
  • That was the good news for expats. For Brits, the bad news is that Brexit is going to make things tougher, at least down south where most of them want to live. So, if you're resident here but aren't yet on the padrón, you might want to get your skates on.
  • I know the name Elcano from Spain's training ship but I confess I wasn't aware that the man was the only navigator to return from Magellan's circumnavigation of the world.
  • I don't recall seeing these unfortunate folk in Madrid's Paseo del Prado last May, despite walking much of it.
  • A distressing tale. With a twist.
The UK
  • Richard North, facing what he thinks is the racing certainty of a No Deal Brexit, says the current British government either has a strategy to ensure this or is afflicted by 'an almost unbelievable level of incompetence'. He plumps for the former.
The EU
Nutters Corner
  • Fox News claims that Ffart 'doesn’t want to make the Mexicans mad by slapping tariffs on them because they’ve been so helpful' in reducing immigration. As an observer observes: When will this idiotic argument die? Tariffs are not a tax on Mexico, they are a tax on American companies that import raw materials from there to build products and on American consumers who have to pay a higher price for those products and those made completely in Mexico. Tariffs do not mean Mexico would pay for the wall, it means we would pay for the wall. Trump keeps repeating this ignorant lie and his sycophants parrot it on command. They really should call Fox and Friends the Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest show.  Hard to disagree.
  • Words of the Day: 
  1. Niebla
  2. Escurridizo: Elusive; Slippery; Sneaky.
  • I have mint at the bottom of my garden. Which is odd, as I never planted any there. The mint I did plant is at the top of the garden and I thought it spread only by rhizomes underground. But Quora tells me:- Mint can reproduce by rooting on any stem margin, by leaf cuttings, root division, seed, and stolons. In nature, however, they only really “reproduce” by flowering and seeding. So that explains that. I think.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 20.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Note: Two or three of the items below have been borrowed from Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas of yesterday.

The Spanish Economy
  • El País reports on growing pessimism here.
  • HT to Lenox for the news that:-
  1. El Mundo reports that banks pay the best salaries, with up to €300,000 a year for executives. 
  2. El Economista reports: Alert from the Bankers: The sector will die if it does not recover its prestige. The Asociación Española Bancaria recognises that ‘The main and most urgent challenge of the financial sector is its bad reputation, a consequence of the crisis and the continuous scandals over the malpractices of the past in the sale of products.’ Neither Lenox nor I are very surprised at these comments. 'Thieves in white gloves' is how Spanish bankers were described to me when I first came here. And their morals have not improved since. Not a problem unique to Spain, of course.
Life in Spain
  • Here's a surprise . . . The AVE high speed train from Madrid won't be arriving in Galicia 'by the end of 2019' but will certainly be here 'within a few months of 2020'. Meanwhile, it's reached the town of Pedralba, which has a population of 232 souls. So, an ideal spot for a high-speed train station. Maybe the mayor is related to someone in Madrid.
  • A conversation in a pharmacy last evening:-
Could you give me some paracetamol, please?
Sure. One gram tablets?
Are they for you?
Yes. But why is that important? Is is a question of maximum dose?
No. It's because a couple of months ago the government made it a prescription-only item. But since you've been here before a couple of times, I'm going to ignore that.
Do you know that in the UK it can be bought in supermarkets?
Yes. I was there visiting my sister and I just couldn't believe it.

So, that old 'personal factor' again - one of the most important aspects of Spanish life.
  • The episode reminded me of my report a few weeks ago that doctors were so fed up with having to write endless prescriptions for analgesics that they were (falsely) labelling their patients' conditions as 'chronic '. Another aspect of Spanish life - bypassing personally inconvenient rules.
  • But there are some things you can never bypass in Spain. Paperwork and the notary being 2 of these. I've just relinquished the executorship of my mother's estate to one of my sisters. A simple form from the UK government signed by me and witnessed by anyone at all. I fancy that the equivalent process here would have demanded at least copies of our ID documents validated by a notary. And would have take a lot longer. But I might be wrong, of course.
  • Lenox Napier has a nice article on Spanish names here. We foreigners have endless problems with people - and, worse, computers - who/which can't get their heads round the fact we have only one surname and possibly 2 forenames. In the latter case, your second forename will always be regarded by people and machines as your first surname. If, indeed, they can find your name in their records in the first place. Endless fun guaranteed.
  • Rosalia is a sort-of-flamenco singer, who's both revered and despised here in Spain. El País explains why here. And Lenox comments thus: Rosalia performs her song 'Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi' on YouTube here. Frankly, it may not help supply an entirely positive answer to the question of why she's despised. Hard to disagree with him. Maybe he and I are both just too old to appreciate the lady.
The USA/Nutters Corner
  • Words of the Day:-
  1. Tirar. Six ways to use this versatile verb,
  2. An horrendous triple murder not far from Pontevedra has brought to light the phrase patria potestad - the authority/rights of a parent vis-a-vis his/her child(ren).
  • Prospect magazine surveyed its readers on the global 50 Top Ten Thinkers. I've never heard of the winner - Iranian mathematician, Caucher Birkar - and am familiar with only 2 of the Top Ten - Great Thunberg(sic!) at 8, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez at 9. This possibly means I'm not smart enough to read this magazine. Which is a shock, as I have a 3 year subscription . . . 
  • I guess Alfie Mittington will say he's heard of them all. As will Ffart, of course.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 19.9.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
  • Here's the estimable Guy Hedgcoe on the impasse. 
  • And here's The Corner on the subject. Taster: We are heading to new elections, expensive and unnecessary. The feeling is that the parties have not fulfilled their part of the social contract and are wearing out the institutions, sending Spaniards to vote until the chosen result emerges. But chosen by whom? Spaniards received the news last night that we will have to vote again in a state of stupor. For 5 years the political parties have been unable to weave the minimal network of mutual confidence. The Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, from the socialist party, yesterday blamed his political opponents, both on the right (Partido Popular and Ciudadanos) and on the left (Podemos) of the blockage. But what is certain is that they have all shown themselves incompetent. The British disease?
Life in Spain
  • A tallish story?
  • More on one aspect of Spain's 'crazy' horario - the daily schedule of students and workers. 
  • In an article in one of our local papers yesterday, it was reported that - even though their leaders are in jail - the local gypsies are running rings around the police and the Guardia Civil when it comes to hiding their drug dealing. The only solution to the problem of the procession of addicts, says someone, is to move the gypsy settlement to somewhere else. Possibly Tambo island. Can't see that happening. As reported, the local authority can't even stop the illegal trading down in the Sunday flea market. And there's been talk of this 'solution' for at least the 19 years I've been here. While more and more illegal shacks have been built.
  • It's reported that - after a less than normally hot summer - our grapes this year are small. So wine volumes will be lower and prices higher.
  • Which reminds me . . . Reader  Scrooge has kindly advised that the Catalana grape is a synonym for the Monastrell grape, known in France as Mourvèdre and in Cataluña as Mataró. Here in Spain, the names Monastrell Menudo and Monastrell Verdadero are used as synonyms for the grape variety Graciano. I hope that clears everything up for the few bon viveurs interested in this . . . One wonders just how many grape varieties - and synonyms and local names - there are around the world. At least thousands, is my guess.
The UK, the EU and Brexit
  • Things are looking very serious . . . EU leaders have given Boris Johnson an ultimatum to come up with a new Brexit plan by the end of September or face up to a no deal.
  • Ffart loves 'the Hispanic', he avers. And tells us his support amongst it/them has risen by 17%. To all of 25%, it seems. He could be wasting his considerable breath on the rest of them.
  • Word of the Day:  Novatada: Prank; practical joke.
  • If you've gone to that list of Anglo-Saxon-derived words said to still being in use, you'll have seen some odd examples. Such as:-
- Abear
- Ach
- Ack
- Addeem
- Adwesch
- Amain
- Arseling - Surely overdue for a comeback
- Asea
- Athel/Atheling
- Attercop
    And that's just the letter A . . . 

    • A British TV ad for a - doubtless expensive - cream says it'll make stretch marks invisible, 'unless you know where to look for them'. As if we didn't know where . . .

    Wednesday, September 18, 2019

    Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 18.9.19

    Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                      Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
    Spanish Politics
    • So, we're off to the polls again in November.Well, some of us. Not me. No vote. I just pay taxes.
    • One wonders which party or parties will be most castigated for this failure.
    Life in Spain
    • The Dutch Zwarte Piet has nothing on us! More on this bizarre fiesta here and here.
    • Details of the recent devastation in the South East.
    • That Catalana grape . . . Reader María advises it's not Caiño tinto, which is a different grape of Portuguese origin. Further research found that it wasn't in Wiki's vast list of red grapes - who knew there were so many? - but I did find some more fotos, here and here. And more local ads. Red and white. I'm resigned to knowing nothing more about the grape, except - per María - that it doesn't make great wine but does make excellent aguardiente/firewater.
    • Talking of Galician rural activities . . .  Here's something from a happy Aussie 'camper' here in Galicia.
    The USA
    • A troubling article. I imagine Russia is at least as bad but you'd never get such an article published there. And you'd be pretty stupid to try to.
    The Way of the World
    • I guess this had to happen but I wonder why we need to know about them? A couple are bringing up a gender-neutral child by keeping its sex a secret. They call their 17-month-old 'they' and dress 'them' in both girls’ and boys’ clothing. The pair, who are circus performers and members of the climate action group Extinction Rebellion, say that they hope the decision will enable the child to “grow into their own person”. At least they aren't calling it/they 'ze'. Truly woke. 
    Nutters Corner
    • Welcome back, Jim. We missed your insanity. Had to make do with Ffart's.
    • Word of the Day: Bellota. Porcinely important.
    • Last night I acquainted a young Dutch person fluent in English that 'gay' didn't always mean what it does today, even in my lifetime. And so, for the benefit of any young reader(s) who's similarly ignorant of the transformation, here's a bit from Wiki on it. Bear in mind that the word has undergone another transmogrification and is now also used to mean something pejorative like 'awful' or 'gross':-The word gay arrived in English during the 12th century from Old French 'gai', most likely deriving ultimately from a Germanic source. Its primary meaning was "joyful", "carefree", "bright and showy", and it was very commonly used with this meaning in speech and literature.  . . . It was apparently not until the 20th century that it began to be used to mean specifically "homosexual", although it had earlier acquired sexual connotations. . . The derived abstract noun 'gaiety' remains largely free of sexual connotations and has, in the past, been used in the names of places of entertainment.  The word may have started to acquire associations of immorality as early as the 14th century, but had certainly acquired them by the 17th. By the late 17th century, it had acquired the specific meaning of "addicted to pleasures and dissipations", an extension of its primary meaning of "carefree" implying "uninhibited by moral constraints". A 'gay woman' was a prostitute, a 'gay man' a womanizer, and a 'gay house' a brothel. . . . The use of gay to mean "homosexual" was often an extension of its application to prostitution: a gay boy was a young man or boy serving male clients. Similarly, a 'gay cat' was a young male apprenticed to an older hobo, commonly exchanging sex and other services for protection and tutelage. The application to homosexuality was also an extension of the word's sexualized connotation of "carefree and uninhibited", which implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual mores. Such usage, documented as early as the 1920s, was likely present before the 20th century, although it was initially more commonly used to imply heterosexually unconstrained lifestyles, as in the once-common phrase "gay Lothario", or in the title of the book and film 'The Gay Falcon', which concerns a womanizing detective whose first name is "Gay". 
    • Interestingly . . . Wiki again: The German equivalent for 'gay, schwul, which is etymologically derived from schwül (hot, humid), has also acquired the pejorative meaning within youth culture
    • For those who didn't check, Yes all the old favourite 'Anglo Saxon' words are in the list. Apart from that, a couple of things are notable:-
    1. Most words are one syllable, some are two but almost none are three. Compare Spanish!
    2. The most numerous words begin with B, I'm guessing because of the Germanic prefix be-. As in begotten.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2019

    Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 17.9.19

    Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                      Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
    Spanish Politics
    • Possibly a widespread view . . . In the face of Brexit, the Catalan challenge and a global trade war, it's suicidal to be without a unifying government and to be about to have yet another general election.
    Life in Spain
    • Malaga's decision to legislate on e-scooters has been vindicated
    • An El País article on the quality of public education in Spain avers this won't improve until more time is spent on getting the kids to think, as opposed to learning by rote. A failure to think can extend well into adult life, of course.
    • August's good news is that, in this the heaviest of driving months, deaths on the road were the lowest ever.
    • September's bad news is that Eastern Spain will take a long time to recover from its worst storm in 140 years. Oh, and we still don't have a government. Maybe late this week. Maybe after November elections.
    • On less important matters . . . Country Girl tells me that the Catalana grape is not one of the varieties grown in Cataluña but a particular grape sold and cultivated here in Galicia. And here and here is evidence of this. But there's nothing else on the web about it and, as there's a reference to an uva catalana caino, I'm now wondering if it's this grape. Or related to it at least.
    • I've referred more than once to Pontevedra's plague of panhandlers. Which only has alliteration going for it. I often wonder if there's an itinerant group touring the cities of Galicia on a regular basis. Or at least those where they can avail themselves of gypsy trapicheo. Here's the latest one doing the rounds of Pontevedra last night, with his attractive Mohican:-
    • Talking of fotos . . . Someone called Txema Salvans began a series on Brits in the Med in El País yesterday. Here and here are the first two of these. Not very flattering so far. As you'd expect.
    The USA
    • Is US financial hegemony finally on the wane? See the article below.
    • Phrase of the Day: Pincelada: Brushstroke.
    Finally . . . 
    1. How about this for a coincidence. . . I was reading about a play called The Life I Lead when an announcer on the BBC said the title words exactly at the same time as I was reading them.
    2. Having listened to a fascinating podcast on Anglo-Saxon, I found this Wiki list of more than 7,000 words in modern use which have come down to us from that language, despite competition from Latin, Danish, Norse, and Northern French
    3. An interesting fact about the post-Roman era in Britain  . . . The Anglos Saxons didn't occupy the abandoned cities during a period of hundreds of years. As evidenced by the fact that all the Anglo-Saxon objects found in these can fit into a shoe-box!

    America’s power is on a financial knife edge: Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford

    China’s online payment platforms are the real threat to US hegemony

    ‘How would you like to pay for that, sir?” For most of my lifetime, there have been three possible answers to that question: cash, a cheque or a plastic card. Go to Beijing, however, and you will see few transactions in those forms. People pay with their phones, using systems created by the two biggest Chinese tech companies, Alibaba and Tencent.

    And not only in Beijing. For the Chinese way of paying is spreading around the world — from taxis in Tokyo to the Harvard giftshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I think this is a big deal. Indeed, it could be a much bigger deal than China’s dominance of 5G telecommunications networks.

    Since 1971, when Richard Nixon severed the last link between the dollar and gold, the world has been on a fiat monetary system (meaning the money supply is unconnected to any scarce reserve asset such as gold). Because of the size of the American economy and its dominance of financial and commodity markets, the US dollar has been the No 1 currency since that time.

    To varying extents, governments abused their ability to print money, leading to an era of high inflation. But gradually a variety of rules evolved (central bank independence, inflation targets) that brought down inflation in most places. Indeed, in the early 21st century, it began to seem as if the central banks had done too well. People began to worry about deflation. That worry intensified after the 2008-9 financial crisis.

    The crisis led to monetary policy innovations, notably zero (and then negative) interest rates and quantitative easing. Despite all this, the dollar has remained the dominant currency in international transactions and central bank reserves. Confident in dollar dominance for the rest of history, American policymakers have grown used to exploiting it as a lever of foreign policy. That financial sanctions were a very powerful tool was only really appreciated after September 11, 2001, when US Treasury officials went after the financial supporters of al-Qaeda. People tend to focus on the seeming failure of the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the assertion of US financial power after 9/11 was much more effective and less expensive.

    Before too long, America was using financial sanctions against other enemies too, notably Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and even against friends (Switzerland, for example) suspected of protecting tax dodgers or other kinds of criminal, not to mention allies that wished to trade with Iran.

    Because international payments between banks have to go through a Belgium-based but US-controlled entity known as Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), America has the power to kick an individual, company or country out of the cross-border payments system. This power has grown increasingly irksome to other large economies.

    Until recently, there seemed to be no real alternative to the dollar. Indeed, the world’s appetite for dollars and dollar-denominated securities has tended to grow even faster than their supply, resulting in a strong dollar and historically very low interest rates (as US bond prices have risen). As Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said at this year’s Federal Reserve conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this is not a satisfactory system. Donald Trump also finds it unsatisfactory, though for different reasons: he would simply like to see a weaker dollar, but finds that he cannot unilaterally will that.

    The advent of various kinds of digital currency creates a new state of affairs. Since the launch of bitcoin, the world has seen a wave of monetary innovation. Cryptocurrencies have proliferated. Many of these, it is true, have been mere experiments. Some have been downright frauds. And maybe it will turn out that blockchain as a technology has more appropriate uses than money. But those who have written off digital money will soon look as silly as the people who said the internet would never replace the fax machine.

    The proof is in China, where digital payment systems established by Alibaba (Alipay) and Tencent (WeChat Pay) have grown explosively. Partly because of timing, partly because of regulation designed to protect banks and credit card companies, Americans never switched as enthusiastically to digital payments.

    Phase two of this story is the expansion of Chinese fintech. One emerging market at a time, China is building a global payments infrastructure. Right now, the various systems are distinct national versions of the Chinese original. But there is no technical reason why the systems should not be linked internationally. Indeed, Alipay is already being used for cross-border remittances.

    If America is stupid, it will let this process continue until the day comes when the Chinese connect their digital platforms into one global system. That will be D-Day: the day the dollar dies as the world’s No 1 currency and the day America loses its financial sanctions superpower.

    If America is smart, it will wake up and start competing for dominance in digital payments. The shortest cut to a system to rival Alibaba and Tencent is Libra, the digital currency proposed by Facebook, which, with its 2.4bn active users, is uniquely positioned to create something on a Chinese scale — and fast. This would not be a true blockchain cryptocurrency, but more like a digital currency in the Chinese style, with the difference that it would be backed by a reserve, held in Switzerland, of dollars and other main currencies.

    There are many obvious arguments against letting Facebook do this, not least its questionable track record when it comes to harvesting and exploiting users’ data. However, as Carney said in Jackson Hole, something such as this needs to happen, with the sponsorship and regulatory oversight of government.

    Right now, the US Treasury is opposed to Libra and the Federal Reserve seems sceptical. But these attitudes seem symptomatic of the risk-aversion that presages decline. From a national security perspective, there is an urgent need to compete with the Chinese before they dominate digital payments globally. And from Trump’s perspective, backing Libra could offer perhaps the only way out of the problem he currently cannot solve, which is the strength of the dollar.

    Libra would be partly dollar-backed, not wholly. So it would be a kind of dollar substitute, reducing international demand for dollars. But it would not offer an alternative to Treasury bonds, so it would not reduce the global demand for those.

    History teaches us power is inseparable from financial power. The country that leads in financial innovation leads in every way: from Renaissance Italy, through imperial Spain, the Dutch republic and the British Empire to post-1930s America. Only lose that financial leadership — just ask poor Mr Pound, once worth $4.86 — and you lose your place as global hegemon.

    The US-China rivalry today (what I call the Second Cold War ) is too focused on trade and telecoms. Washington needs to turn its attention, as a matter of urgency, to the race for monetary leadership, which America is in danger of losing.